The magnificent county of Durham has so much to offer holiday makers, day trippers and staycationers. From the rugged cliffs and unspoilt dunes of the Durham Heritage Coast, to the picturesque Durham Dales packed full of quaint villages and hidden gems. Plus of course, the vibrant Durham City with its UNESCO World Heritage site at its heart.
With so much to see and do it can be hard to know where to begin. If you ask a group of people from the North East what their favourite Durham attractions are, you’ll probably get a different answer from each of them!
I recently spent a few days exploring areas of Durham I’d never been to before, checking out some wonderfully quirky visitor attractions and revisiting some of my favourite places. Everything was pre-booked using the new one stop shop at www.thisisdurham.com/escape. The user friendly website makes planning a fun filled summer a doddle!
Choosing my top five activities was no mean feat but I’ve managed to come up with the following list, all tried and tested by yours truly! I hope it inspires you to Escape the Everyday and spend some time in this wonderful part of England.
Why I love it: I’ve always been intrigued by Alpacas, they are such strange looking creatures yet utterly adorable. I was delighted to discover that tucked away in the Durham Dales there’s a family run farm that is home to 49 alpacas and 6 llamas! Teesdale Alpacas is run by husband and wife team Doug and Sam from their working farm near the market town of Barnard Castle. Their knowledge of these curious creatures is extraordinary; the animals are clearly cared for like family members. On a lovely sunny afternoon a few weeks ago James and I took two Llamas called Dave and Eli for a leisurely wander. Having the opportunity to walk with alpacas through beautiful countryside and feed them by hand beside the River Greta was something I’ll never forget.
Further info: The treks are always weather dependent and the experience lasts about two hours. It costs £25 per adult or two adults can share one alpaca for £40. Children under 12 will need to share an alpaca with an adult – £10 Supplement.
Why I love it: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Beamish Museum is one of the best visitor attractions in the UK! Set in over 300 acres of beautiful countryside in the Vale of Durham, Beamish Museum has something for everyone. I’ve been there with my parents who are in their 60’s and 70’s, as well as with nieces and nephews under 10 – and they all love it much as this thirty something does.
The open air attraction gives you the chance to step back in to the 1820’s, 1900’s, 1940’s and 1950’s and see what life was like back then for North East folk. Transport around the different areas of Beamish Museum is provided by traditional trams, open top vintage buses, or horse and cart. There’s also an Edwardian train station where you can jump on board a classic steam engine.
I seem to discover something new every time I visit Beamish Museum, from delicious fried fish at the coal-fired chip shop, to vintage fairground rides, friendly farm animals and perfectly recreated vintage shops, houses and public buildings. You can even go down a Durham mine!
Further Info: Entry to Beamish is based on an ‘unlimited pass’ system. This means you pay once and can visit as much as you like for a whole year! It’s £19.50 for adults, £14.50 for seniors and students, £11.50 for 5-16 year olds. Under 5’s go free and family value tickets are also available. At the time of writing, visitors were being asked to pre-book a time slot due to covid restrictions. Always check before you go.
Why I love it: In my humble opinion, the only thing better than cheese, is artisan cheese served to you by people who made it with their own fair hands! On a recent visit to Teesdale Cheesemakers I got to sample all seven of their local cheeses at their cute café and see how they were made in the adjacent dairy. I also had the pleasure of meeting the couple who run this award winning enterprise. Allison and Johnathan were so full of passion for what they do that I left feeling totally inspired. As for the cheese, oh my days, it was divine! My favourite was ‘Doris’, named after Johnathan’s lovely Grandma. It was crumbly in the middle but with a soft, smoother edging, so delicious! There’s loads of outdoor seating where you can sit and enjoy a cheese and meat platter, plus a little playground for the kids. Glamping accommodation will also be available at Teesdale Cheesemakers in the near future. It will make a great base for exploring this part of Durham.
Further info: Cheese platters cost from £15 and dairy tours are £7pp. Teesdale Cheesemakers put on regular foodie nights and events and pre-booking for their glamping site is available now.
Why I love it: It doesn’t matter how well you think you know a city, going on a guided tour will open up your eyes and introduce you to stories and businesses you never knew existed! I recently met up with Anna from Newcastle Tour Company for a two hour walk around Durham City centre and discovered so many new reasons to love it! Anna told me amusing tales of Durham City’s famous residents, pointed out quirky cafes hidden down tiny vennels (alleyways to you and me) and helped me appreciate the historical importance of Durham’s UNESCO world heritage site. I highly recommend it!
Further info: Newcastle Tour Company offer a variety of guided walks for private groups with prices starting from £22.50pp based on a group of 8 people.
Why I love it: It might be an old wive’s tale but waterfalls are said to give us positive energy because the vitamins in the watery air give off negative ions which increase our bodies’ production of serotonin. Who knows if that’s a scientific fact or not but I can tell you that a recent visit to High Force waterfall gave me all the positive vibes!
James and I made a return visit to the Durham Dales a couple of weeks after our day of alpacas and cheese to check out the impressive waterfall in all its glory. The base of High Force is easily accessible down a short path across the road from the High Force Hotel which has a large pay and display car park next door. We stood there at the base of the waterfall for ages, simply marvelling at its beauty! After a while we noticed people wandering about near the top of the waterfall, so we decided to walk a couple of miles along the Pennine Way to reach the top, and wow, it was so worth it, the views were stunning!
Further info: Parking was £3 for 3 hours and tickets to access the base of the waterfall were £2 each.
Have you got a favourite activity to enjoy in Durham? Let me know in the comments!
If you need even more inspiration for days out and things to do, This is Durham has a new web page dedicated to activities you can pre-book… www.thisisdurham.com/escape Perfect for helping you escape the everyday and make up for all that lost time in lockdown!
You may also be interested in this Durham hotel review I wrote a couple of years ago.